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  • Dylan Anderson

Routt Commissioners consider opting out of new state law banning guns in Historic County Courthouse

County Attorney recommends Commissioners opt out of the new law, citing potential liability.

The Routt County Commissioners will consider passing a resolution on Monday to opt out of a new state law that prohibits carrying a gun in “sensitive spaces” like the Historic Routt County Courthouse.

The new law, Senate Bill 24-131, called “Prohibiting Carrying Firearms in Sensitive Spaces” defines these spaces as a building where the local governing body is located, including the offices of elected officials and the county’s chief executive. According to County Attorney Erick Knaus’ interpretation of the law, the sensitive spaces would just be the Historic Courthouse.

Knaus said the law creates a misdemeanor charge for carrying a firearm in these spaces, but includes an opt out clause for local governments. At a work session last week, Knaus recommended Commissioners opt out of the new law.

“From a legal aspect, when someone decides to do harm, a law or a regulation, an ordinance is not going to prevent them from doing that, in my opinion,” Knaus said. “I believe the county could be culpable for disarming vulnerable employees.”  

Routt County Sheriff Doug Scherar said that because the law has an opt out clause, the potential liability of disarming staff and visitors in the building shifts to the county. If someone were to enter the Historic Courthouse with ill-intent and the county did not allow guns, Scherar said he believed a concealed weapon carrier could argue the county jeopardized their safety by disarming them.

“A sign on the door that says firearms not allowed on this premises is not going to stop a person with ill-intent,” Scherar said. “But I do believe it would prohibit a law-abiding concealed weapon holder to protect themselves if something like that were to happen.”

Knaus recommended Commissioners pass a resolution on Monday to opt out of the new law temporarily, while they consider an ordinance to fully opt out. The reasoning for both measures, Knaus explained, is because ordinances take longer to approve, and the bill goes into effect on Monday.

The new law was signed by Gov. Jared Polis on May 31 and both of Routt County’s elected representatives in Denver, Sen. Dylan Roberts and Rep. Meghan Lukens, voted in favor of the law. The law does include an exemption allowing law enforcement and security personnel to carry a firearm.

Commissioners already have the authority to ban guns in county buildings, though they haven’t. Commissioner Tim Corrigan said he could be “easily convinced” that they should add magnetometers and uniformed officers to the building and ban guns, but he didn’t believe it was an appropriate use of taxpayers’ dollars. Making the building secure would likely eliminate the liability Knaus said the county would be subject to currently.

“That would have to come at the expense of other county services,” Corrigan said. “If we could afford it, I would be happy to do it. I don’t think this is a place where guns should be. … If you don’t have that level of security, whatever policy we put in place is not going to prevent someone from coming and shooting the place up.”

Commissioner Sonja Macys said she wanted to get more information before deciding on the opt out, including if there was a way to allow county employees to carry a firearm to work without opting out of the new law.

As Knaus said he was caught somewhat off guard by the new law, Macys speculated that municipalities throughout Routt County may also have missed it as well. It would seemingly apply to buildings like Centennial Hall in Steamboat Springs, Hayden Town Hall, Oak Creek Town Hall and Crossan's Market in Yampa, unless those municipalities opt out.

Commissioners will consider a resolution to opt-out of the new law at 1:45 p.m. on Monday in the Commissioners Hearing Room.

Top Photo Caption: Commissioners are considering opting out of a new state law banning people from carrying firearms at the Historic Routt County Courthouse. (Dylan Anderson/The Yampa Valley Bugle)


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